When Zacharias questioned what the angel was telling him in Luke 1:18 we discovered that the reliability of the message is wrapped up in the credibility of the messenger. Now beginning in Luke 1:26-38 we are about to find out why that is so vital. Because if the message brought to Zacharias by the angel was fantastic, then even more so the message which Gabriel brings to Mary.
This passage which is a dialog between Gabriel and Mary usually ends up with Mary getting all of the attention, but Gabriel serves as the bookends for the passage, both starting and stopping it. The reason this matters is that the gospel is initiated in heaven – not on earth. Mary is not the creator of the child, God is. We receive the gospel but we neither initiate nor create it. The gospel is God’s work in us, just as the infant Jesus – the fetus is God’s work in Mary. Mary had no more power to create Christ inside of her than we do! Christ in us like Christ in
Mary is a miraculous work of God. In Mary it was Generation, in us it is re-generation! Both are miracles of grace.
Both require faith. But as the scripture says, “How then will they call on Him in whom they have not believed? How will they believe in Him whom they have not heard? And how will they hear without a preacher? How will they preach unless they are sent? Just as it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news of good things!” ” (Romans 10:14–15, NASB95)
For Mary to hear and agree to the message, there had to be a messenger…
Go when you are told
Vv26-27 It has been six months since John the Baptist’s conception. And now, for the second time, Gabriel is
dispatched by God with a message. The timing is important because by the sixth month of her pregnancy,
(A) Elizabeth has come out of hiding (Luke 1:24-25).
(B) She is more than likely obviously showing her condition so that the testimony of God’s power to fulfill his word is proven – this is clearly pointed to in Luke 1:36-37.
(C)She is prepared to give testimony to Mary when she comes.
That Gabriel is named is an indicator to us tying this annunciation to that of John the Baptist. This is the same messenger, and thus – as we learned from his encounter with Zacharias, Gabriel stands in the very presence of God and for this reason his word is not to be questioned. For you and I reading this, and remembering Luke’s goal is to reassure you that what you know of the gospel is accurate – it means that we should be paying attention to what this privileged angel is about to tell Mary.
Remember, that this is not the first time
that Gabriel has shown up. He also is the Angel sent to the prophet Daniel (Daniel 8:16; 9: 21) in order to explain visions of the end times to to that prophet. We get the somewhat obvious feeling that this angel in particular is an important one and he is.
Go where you are sent
With that level of importance we might have expected him to show up in the presence of Zacharias. In terms of importance he was right up there. He’s a priest of the best sort serving faithfully on his most important day in the temple.
But you and I would do well to remember that God is no respecter of persons. God really doesn’t care about your rank, your title, your family lineage, your personal history, or your qualifications to work for Him. In fact, all of your abilities get in the way unless you lay them on the altar.
I have a friend who a number of years ago finally ascended to the top academically he received his Doctorate
from a prestigious institution. Almost immediately many if not all of the people in the church changed and began calling him Dr. Bill instead of pastor Bill. They gave him preferential treatment as if he expected it. Funny thing though, Bill is a humble man and he kept asking people just to call him Bill. But the deference continued and it threatened to get in the way of ministry.
Finally, Bill showed up to church one morning wearing all of his doctoral garb, the cap the gown the whole uniform and everything. He walked down the center aisle with all the eyes of the church upon him where he stopped in front of the altar. There he removed them and placed them on the altar. He turned around and declared that he counted all things as rubbish for the sake of Christ. He wasn’t Dr. Bill he was and is simply Bill. “Honor Christ, not me” he would say.
Bill Cooper is a fine example of a man who didn’t “put any stock” in his position. God doesn’t either.
The angel Gabriel was sent to the region of Galilee. [map] Now Galilee is the region in the the northern most portion of Israel, it was thought rather poorly of by pure-blood Jews. This is why Nathaniel asks, "Can anything good come out of Nazareth?" (John 1:46). It was a highly traveled but not entirely thoroughly Jewish neighborhood. Because of it’s location many of the Roman empire’s routes passed through the region,1 thus making Galilee a place that would have been culturally flavored by more than just Judaism since it were so widely traversed. As a result many Jews didn’t think very highly of it. This is far removed from the sacred center of the temple.
Immediately there’s a contrast set up between Zacharias and Mary. Geographically Zacharias is in Jerusalem the political and religious center of all of Jewish thought. Mary is in Galilee the far-flung reaches on the edge of the Jewish state.
To the Geographic separation is added the social separation. Zacharias was from the elite religious class, a priest and a male. She was an unmarried female Jew in the middle of “the wrong side of town”. That’s a nice way of saying that she had nothing going for her.
In the first annunciation Gabriel was sent to the husband – here he is sent to the woman. If you were to take your time comparing and contrasting Mary and Zacharias you would come away with a very interesting list. Location, Family Line, Wealth and poverty, prestige, inherent honor you name it. But it all sums up to this: From that day’s religious viewpoint there couldn’t be a more widely distinct separation between two Jews.
But God is no respecter of persons, he doesn’t care about class distinctions. He doesn’t care if we are black, white or purple. He doesn’t care if you’re a man or a woman, wealthy or poor, elite or
scum of the earth. All that matters to God is faith, and God is looking for the faithful that he can use.
2 Chronicles 16:9 says, “For the eyes of the Lordmove to and fro throughout the earth that He may strongly support those whose heart is completely His. ….”
Let me ask you, when the eyes of the Lord look your way, does he find you to be completely His? Or are you holding something out for yourself?
Go to Whomever God sends you
Gabriel is sent to a virgin. Her name is not given until the very end of the verse because her status and purity is more important than her name. Roman law had set the
minimum age for Marriage at 10 or 12 for girls and 14 for boys. "Jewish practices were comparable, so that marriage for a female usually took place before she reached 12½ years of age."2 Mary therefore would almost certainly be somewhere in that early age group – little more than a girl by today’s standards but raised to be a woman in her own time she would have been capable of the task of motherhood. Above all things we learn about her that she is not only of marriageable age but that she is sexually pure and this is vital.
That she is repeatedly referred to as a virgin is central to the gospel story. The Birth of John the baptist is one thing in that Zacharias and Elizabeth were old and unable, but they were at least together as husband and wife. That Mary is a virgin is central to the gospel for a few reasons. First, not only is it vital that the birth of Messiah be miraculous – but Jesus must
be the son of God, and not even possibly be identified as the son of a human. Every doubt of Jesus’ origin is removed by this fact that Mary is a virgin.
She was at least betrothed, and "[b]etrothal was much more closely linked with marriage than our modern engagement."3 The engagement between Joseph and Mary fell under the common rules of the day. It involved a negotiated legal contract which could only be broken by legal divorce proceedings.4 Once the contract was agreed to a period of at least a year would pass during which Mary would be living with her parents and Joseph elsewhere – perhaps building the home they would be living in. (Prov. 24:27) It was during this time period then that Gabriel came to Mary. She may not have been the cream of the social crop, but she was God’s chosen vessel.
Finally we find out that this Mary is engaged to a descendant of David. To any Jew reading or hearing this text would immediately remember God’s promise to always have a descendant of David on the throne (2 Samuel 7). Later we will learn that Mary herself is also a descendant of David. Therefore Jesus both by bloodline through Mary and Legal authority through Joseph has the right to claim the throne of David. This introduction therefore serves to point out that what is about to happen is a highly significant event. And for anyone with any knowledge of the Jews, the promised coming of Messiah must surely be ringing in their ears.
For us, the fact that God is initiating the gospel by sending the angel Gabriel is of major importance. First of all it gives us as readers of the gospel a clear sign that Jesus is much more than the world makes him out to be. Second it demonstrates that God will use whom he wants to use, in order bring about
salvation. It is this second aspect that captures my heart this morning because I am convinced that God wants to use this church to proclaim his gospel in this town.
Like Gabriel we need to go when we’ve been told to go. We all know the mission given in Matthew 28:19 Go, tell, baptize disciples. Our lives are testimonies this much is true. But we have got to be intentional about going and telling and making disciples.
We have to go where we’re sent. Right here in Assumption, Moweaqua, Blue Mound, this is our Jerusalem and Samaria. We’ve been sent here, or perhaps God is laboring in someone’s heart this morning to a greater distance as a missionary. You have to go where you’re sent.
And we need to go, to whomever God sends us. Right here in this town – unwed mothers are many. My heart truly breaks every time I hear of another pregnant
high-schooler. Friends, some people might write them off, but not me, and not God. Rich or poor, high or low society, nice or mean; it doesn’t matter. If God is tugging at your heart with someone’s name, it’s time to be obedient.
Let’s do the mission God gave us.
2Joel B. Green, The Gospel of Luke (The New International Commentary on the New Testament) (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1997)